Over 3.4 billion scam emails are sent daily.
Therefore, it’s highly likely some of them are going to bypass protective email filters and appear in your main inbox.
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a surge of scam emails from medical institutions or governments claiming to provide essential information regarding the virus. These emails, of course, did not come from reputable organizations or sources but from cybercriminals.
When a person downloaded the latest guidelines, they’d also install malicious malware on their device. Depending on the malware, it could steal information or encrypt files.
During the holidays, there is a usual rush hour of scam emails under the guise of various brands that urge you to claim a gift you’ve won.
To collect your prize, you have to fill out the survey that seeks your name, address, and, most importantly for criminals — your credit card number.
All year round, fake bank notices are sent to unsuspecting victims, urging the target individual to take action right away because their funds have been stolen. To help you with that, they need your credit card number, information your bank would never ask for via email or phone.
But not all phishing emails are obvious scams.
Some are written by hackers that have scoured social media profiles. They might impersonate one’s boss to extract passwords or secure wire transfers. Most employees don’t second-guess requests from management in the company.
Those messages can’t be detected by a regular email filter because it falls short in the face of new and more sophisticated phishing campaigns.
How to detect advanced emails that hide something more sinister in their attachments?
The tool designed to detect and mitigate threats coming to your inbox is known as email scanning. How does it work in preventing hacking activity?
What Is Email Scanning?
Email scanning is a cybersecurity tool that analyzes messages to identify and block those that contain any virus or spam in the body or attachment.
During initial scanning, the email is checked for any URLs that lead to phishing sites and malware in the attachments.
Unsafe emails are blocked and don’t reach the recipient.
Another thing that is considered is to whom the information is sent. If the scanner identifies that sensitive data is sent to an unauthorized user, it might block that message as well.
The automated solution is also continually updated to scan incoming emails and recognize signs of the latest malware and learn about the organization to work more efficiently.
Detecting Phishing Emails
Ninety percent of data breaches are caused by phishing schemes. Although phone calls, social media, and SMS messages are popular too, most phishing schemes are tied to email.
For threat actors planning a phishing campaign, it’s easy to find many email addresses to which they can send their malicious emails and wait until someone clicks on the link or downloads the malware hiding in the attachment.
To fight against social engineering, such as phishing, most companies nowadays have employee training that teaches awareness of these well-known types of email scams.
However, when facing increasingly sophisticated phishing schemes, even cybersecurity experts that know a lot about phishing are not completely immune. Phishing exploits human errors and biases, and it can be difficult to train employees to recognize that.
Email scanning is designed to identify social engineering attacks such as phishing. For instance, it can recognize a business email compromise — the attack in which the hacker takes over the CEO’s email and requests wire transfers from employees.
Blocking Malware-Infected Emails
Links and attachments that are riddled with malware are detected by email scanning and blocked even before they reach the inbox of the recipient.
In the worst-case scenario, they can contain information about stealing malware or ransomware with the capability to lock the company out of the system or encrypt essential data.
What makes email scanning successful in discovering hidden viruses?
In-depth analysis of the documents attached in the email and potentially harmful content in the body of an email, as well as blocking the messages that contain links to websites that are known to be used for phishing.
Depending on the message, the email scanner will also clean that document from malware and deliver it safely to the recipient.
Preventing Further Criminal Activity
Successful phishing can grant cybercriminal access to a network of a business or lead to private data. From there, the hacker can:
- Get more privileges that allow deeper access to the system (more personal data of users and team members)
- Monitor the company’s activity for days, weeks, or months — to report that information to their competitors or use it for extortion
- Obtain sensitive data — that can be leaked online and used to identify fraud by other criminals
- Install malware that locks users out of the infrastructure or encrypts important files to seek ransom — also known as ransomware
Most hackers’ endgame is monetary gain — which is why the top targeted industries with cyberattacks are typically finance and healthcare, the ones that hold the most personal information.
Stolen data is often used for extortion (threats of leaking the information if the ransom is not paid), sold on the dark web and hacking forums, or used to financially harm affected individuals with identity fraud.
Email scanning is designed to prevent incidents such as ransomware and data breaches by cutting off hackers and not allowing their messages to arrive in the targeted inbox.
Essentially, email scanning blocks malicious emails, not allowing them to reach the inboxes of busy employees and removes the risk of someone accidentally clicking on a detrimental link in the email.
Compared to regular email filters, it is better at identifying complex and sophisticated scam emails as well as those that contain new malware in the body or attachment.
As a result, it can prevent common cyber threats that usually start with phishing (e.g. ransomware) and data breaches that are difficult to recover from.